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Well here we are.. first forge, first piece


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.. and I’m guessing I’m still burning the steel.  These are just rr spikes so I’m not really out anything. Learning some good lessons though. Having a hell of a time on the grinder.. anytime the belt gets near the beveled edge, it discolors and burns? .. at the very end of my trial, i realized that dipping it in water between each grind helped A LOT.. but was much slower. I only have a 2x42 belt grinder so I’ll have to just deal with it. 
 

so here’s my first knife (so far) ..burnt, twisted, warped, crazy ass grind angled smh .. but I’m super stoked that it was made with my own two hands, in a forge that i built also with my own two hands. A very satisfying feeling indeed. 
 

tomorrow I’m going to try to clean it up some more and attempt to put a handle on it. And yeah.. i don’t have anything fancy so I’ll be using scrap 2x3 pine ..on the horror.. i promise you,, it will make a fantastic Amazon package opener.. you just wait and see. 
 

 

i am ABSOLUTELY open to advice on this to do this process better.. I’m just a guy with no special powers. I built a forge and grabbed a hammer. That’s it. I know nothing. Share your experience with me :) :) 

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There's hardly any point in finishing a RR spike.  I mean, sure, it's better steel than humans had for several thousand years, but it's not a knife steel.

Before you HT (with a proper steel) it doesn't matter all that much how much you over heat the steel grinding it, some normalize heats will fix it.  After it's hard, if it turns blue, you heat treat is gone and you need to start over.

Before HT you need to leave about the thickness of a nickel at the edge to allow  yourself room to grind away decarburized material.   Forge thick, grind thin.

 

g

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Spikes are good practice, though.  They are tougher than many actual "knife" steels (the plain carbon ones, anyway) and people like them if they can tell it was a railroad spike.  

 

That said, looking good for your first one!  Blueing the edge like that often means your belt is dull, you're using too much pressure (or not enough, with some ceramic belts) or you're trying to remove a lot of steel with a belt that's too fine a grit.  Or all of the above!  When learning to use a belt grinder I found it helpful to practice on wood.  It goes fast, it doesn't wear out belts, and it's far easier than steel.  

 

You're at the start of the road now.  Practice is what will make you better. B)

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Welcome to the quest! Geoff and Alan make excellent points. RR Spikes are fun and really good practice. 

 

Ditto what Alan said re: dull belts. Here's a trick to reduce the amount of wear on the belts. Get a cheap 4" hand held grinder and grind all the black stuff from the forge off before you start grinding. You can also remove a lot of the material with the hand held grinder before going to the belt grinder to set the bevels and polish.  Don't worry about only have a 2x42" grinder. That's what I had for many years and it works just fine. 72" belts last a bit longer, but that's really the only advantage. When you can, upgrade to variable speed grinder. That really does make a big difference in control. 

 

I always recomend that new smiths pick up two classic books that you should read, re-read and then read again. They are pretty old, but still indispensible in my opinion.

 

The two things I recommend ignoring in Boye's book are: 1: Using scrap steel instead of buying new (new, good steel is cheap and easy to buy . . . try the 10xx variety, 1070, 1095, etc.) and 2: Using Aqua Regia (mix of hydrocholoric and nitric acid) to etch. That shit is alien blood and super dangerous. Use Ferric Chloride (easily purchased off Amazon) instead. Very safe comparatively.

 

Links below.

 

Luck!

 

https://www.amazon.com/Step-Knifemaking-You-Can-Do/dp/0615116590/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=step+by+step+knifemaking&qid=1625327574&sr=8-3

 

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Bladesmith-Forging-Your-Perfection/dp/099870816X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+complete+bladesmith&qid=1625327601&sr=8-1

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Alan Longmire said:

Spikes are good practice, though.  They are tougher than many actual "knife" steels (the plain carbon ones, anyway) and people like them if they can tell it was a railroad spike.  

 

That said, looking good for your first one!  Blueing the edge like that often means your belt is dull, you're using too much pressure (or not enough, with some ceramic belts) or you're trying to remove a lot of steel with a belt that's too fine a grit.  Or all of the above!  When learning to use a belt grinder I found it helpful to practice on wood.  It goes fast, it doesn't wear out belts, and it's far easier than steel.  

 

You're at the start of the road now.  Practice is what will make you better. B)

Great points everyone! Yes Geoff i completely agree.. however for my first few i am going to use the rr spikes for randomness and trials during the crafting since they are very cheap. I’m not bothering with heat treating and hardening either as i believe it would be pointless. I do need lots of practice with hammer work as well as grinding and I’d rather use rr spikes than good steel. I am not under any illusion that I’d be making anything but knife shaped letter openers. As Alan said,, good practice. 
 

i went ahead and tried to flatten the tang and put a handle on it. It’s the same piece as before .. just more finished.  As Dave suggested, i did the initial work with my angle grinder and it worked a charm for getting the rough stuff off. The grinding is difficult to get right.. ridges all over the place, valleys.. hot spots at the edge etc. having a hard time setting a consistent bevel too. For the same reasons i used a rr spike, i used white pine 2x4 lumber (also that’s what i had laying around). I’m actually quite thrilled with my janky, warped, twisted, notched piece haha.. it was a lot of fun to make. On the next one I’ll def try to be more gentle with the forge and hammer to make my grinding a bit easier. Here’s a couple pics.  Also not sure what is supposed to happen where the handle meets the .. ricasso?, choil?.. i just tapered it but don’t care much for the look

 

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Edited by Nicholai
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47 minutes ago, Geoff Keyes said:

You might want to look at this

 

 

Wow that was an amazing tutorial/read! 
do you have a belt grinding jig for grinding in the plunge cut and keeping the bevel level?, or do you file it all in by hand jig

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I use a carbide faced filing jig to set the plunges.  The carbide ones are a bit more expensive, but the grinder belts won't touch them.  I still end up having to go in and dress the plunges with a file, but the guide is invaluable.

 

g

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Oo that is indeed expensive for a fledgling like myself.. esp after building the forge (burner is working great btw.. i suspect i might hav been burning the steel since i work it outside and it just never quite looks hot enough lol). Maybe after a couple years of practice I’ll get

one lol. 

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Try running at dusk or after dark.  That will give you a clearer picture of your temps and a notion of where your burner settings should be.

G

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1 hour ago, Geoff Keyes said:

Try running at dusk or after dark.  That will give you a clearer picture of your temps and a notion of where your burner settings should be.

G

Yeah i need to for sure. 
 

quick question about the bevel.. after grinding the bevel, do you put a secondary smaller bevel (at a steeper angle) when sharpening .. or do you simply sharpen the primary bevel at the same angle as the bevel itself?

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The answer is, it depends.  Have a close look at blades you have, and see what those makers did.  Kitchen knives (good ones, at least) have a near zero bevel.  The grind is flat from wherever they start the bevel (near the spine) right to the edge.  Those big chunky American made folders (you know who I mean) use a semi hollow saber grind and a big secondary bevel.  A convex or apple seed edge puts a little bit of meat behind the edge for strength.  It all depends on the expected use.  The thing that I have discovered is that you can often get by with much less steel than you think.  This is sometimes an issue with trying to recreate a historical blade.  Many early American blades are quite heavy and modern makers find it hard to get the scale right.

In general cutters are thin with a small or nearly non-existent secondary bevel, choppers tend to have a bit more meat at the edge.  Having said that, I have a cleaver that I made for the kitchen.  The spine is 1/8th inch and it's got a flat bevel down to a zero edge.  It's paper thin tomato slice sharp, but I have chopped through a shoulder bone of a pork roast with no damage.  The steel is differentially quenched 1080.

A quality heat treat is important

 

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On 7/3/2021 at 8:43 PM, Geoff Keyes said:

Try running at dusk or after dark.  That will give you a clearer picture of your temps and a notion of where your burner settings should be.

G

Wow what a difference the lighting makes. I’d only done it outside before, but i did some forging tonight and couldn’t believe the steel that looked black in the daylight was glowing red red red. Also the workable time is MUCH longer that i had been doing.. no wonder i was burning the hell out of everything. It was also A LOT easier to see the flame color and be able to control the scale formation. I’ve got it almost dialed in. Your description of a pillowy/billowy flame helped a lot. I was trying to get a jet roar the whole time,.. but after the forge is up to temp, backing it down with some yellowish flames licking out seemed to work really well. As SOON as the first hammer strike lands, there is a crust of scale formation.. I’m guessing that’s normal? I was really surprised at how much heat retention this thing has and how quickly it gets the steel glowing again. I think I’m probably still running too mush psi but each time i try, it gets better and better. i have an atlas mini that I’ve never used tucked away in my garage. After having some fun testing out forge welding, I’ll be using this forge mostly for that, and the atlas for billet shaping. Geoff.. man i can’t thank you enough for your guidance with the burner build. It’s running like a absolute champ and is downright beastly when cranked up. 
 

One of the things i did wrong DESPITE reading about not doing it, was the coating of mizzou/plistix.. i know it’s a wash, i know latex paint consistency, i know thin layer … nevertheless i was having a damn hard time getting my hand/ brush inside the forge to coat it and applied too many layers out of frustration. It ended up being more of a thickish  coat rather than a painting. After heating it up and using it a few times, cracks and chunks are falling out of the mizzou.. which is fine!.. it looks a bit untidy in there but overall there’s still enough wash  and bits stuck on that it seems to be helping quite a bit. I’ll make sure to do it right next time. 

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On 7/3/2021 at 8:55 AM, Dave Stephens said:

Get a cheap 4" hand held grinder and grind all the black stuff from the forge off before you start grinding. You can also remove a lot of the material with the hand held grinder before going to the belt grinder to set the bevels and polish.

Another way to deal with forge scale is to do a 24-48 hour soak in vinegar.  When the vinegar is fresh, a garden hose will wash off the scale.  As it weakens, you'll have to start using  a wire brush (I use a wire wheel on an angle grinder) to get it all off.  I'm not in a hurry, so I prefer this method.  A lot quieter and less time wearing the respirator.

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I run mine at about 1-2 psi, about 80% of the air choked off, and  the needle valve open about 50%.  That gives me plenty of "head room" on the burner.  I can open up the air and add more gas, or I can choke the air back even farther and dial the gas back to a whisper.

Forging in bright light is a problem, it takes away a lot of information you need.  Many of us keep a bucket or something to use as a sun shade handy, if we need to do that.

 

g

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3 hours ago, Geoff Keyes said:

I run mine at about 1-2 psi, about 80% of the air choked off, and  the needle valve open about 50%.  That gives me plenty of "head room" on the burner.  I can open up the air and add more gas, or I can choke the air back even farther and dial the gas back to a whisper.

Forging in bright light is a problem, it takes away a lot of information you need.  Many of us keep a bucket or something to use as a sun shade handy, if we need to do that.

 

g

Yeah.. after seeing the difference that lighting makes, I’ll probably only do it at dusk from now on. 

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